The Shaman Brings the Wisdom Back Home

This world is truly fucked up in a lot of ways.

There. I said it. Even with my optimism about the world, and human potential, and the resiliency of nature in general, there are still some things in this place that are heart-rendingly, disgustingly, infuriatingly screwed all beyond belief. I think we all have different opinions about what falls under that heading, but we can mostly agree on things like war and people dying needlessly, children being abused and then in turn abusing animals and later on other humans (including their own children), the extinction of species that didn’t have to die, and possibly the overuse of the Papyrus font in everything pagan. (Okay, maybe that last offense is in a league of its own.)

And I know that this fucked-upedness makes it tempting to run away and never come back. People want to live off the grid, not just to be eco friendly (even though a well-planned city can be more sustainable) but to get away from other humans except for a select few they deem “okay”. I’ve heard people talk about how humans as a species should just die out and the world would be better without us, emphasizing only the worst our species has done, and contemplating drowning the baby in the bathwater. This includes some deeply spiritual people I know who are quite connected to the nonhuman natural world. I’m constantly amazed by how many ways people can justify misanthropy.

I feel that frustration, too. I have days where I just get sick of statistics on how much rain forest has been cut down today and yet another person telling me that the addicts I counsel in my day job are “irredeemable” and should just be locked in prison for life. I don’t need another talking head telling me that somehow letting gay people marry will lead to terrible things that have no actual correlation to gay marriage, let alone any causative factors. Believe me, there’s enough stuff to make me so pissed off sometimes that I make Hothead Paisan look like a Disney Princess in comparison.

And I do take breaks from this crazy-ass world now and then. That’s why I go hiking and escape to the coast every few months. It’s why I hang out with people I love and who accept me in all my weirdness. It’s the reason for good novels and bad movies and hours of vegging on the internet. Self-care is a damned important thing for everyone, me included.

But I have to come back sometime. Part of my job as a (neo)shaman is to stay in the thick of things, as much as my health will allow. When a shaman journeys to the spirit world, or hides out in the woods, they don’t stay there permanently. There’s a community to be served, and knowledge and wisdom and information to be delivered unto them. Going on the journey, whether it’s through drumming and trance, or backpacking, or your escape of choice, is just part of the trip. It’s not just for your benefit. It’s for the people and other beings you serve, too. And that means climbing back out of whatever comfy hidey-hole you’ve discovered in the woods, whatever font of wisdom you’ve happened upon in the spirit world. No matter how not-fun it is, you gotta come back.

Why? Because in your head and your heart and your hands you carry things that can help lots of folks, and you have the ability to convey it. If you keep it to yourself, you’re not doing your job. “To keep silent” isn’t applicable here. Maybe you have to choose carefully how you convey what you have, and who your audience is, to make sure it has the best chance of making a constructive impact. (Pro tip: preaching, browbeating, insulting, and “my way or the highway” approaches don’t work too well on that count.)

In short: escapism isn’t shamanism. If you want to make people come to you, that’s fine; just make sure the way’s still clear, and the hurdles are not so high that most people are too discouraged to even try. We don’t just get the community we want to serve. We get the one we need to serve, which means sometimes working with the difficult, the obstinate, the downright offensive. Abandonment isn’t a part of it. Setting boundaries, sure. Knowing your own limits, of course. But writing off people entirely just so you can go hide in your little slice of paradise away from the hoi polloi? That’s taking the easy way out.

Go out and explore. Go play in the woods. Go take a break. But make damned sure you come back and keep up the good work. The world needs you, and me, and all of us, if we have a chance at getting through the current crises intact.

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8 thoughts on “The Shaman Brings the Wisdom Back Home

  1. This needed to be said (and sorry for stating the obvious). I often find myself wanting to agree with the ‘misanthropes’ you mentioned although maybe I’m not ready to condemn the whole human race just yet. If I was to describe how I felt every time I see a piece of ‘bad news’ (destruction, voilence, cuelty etc) I would say it resembles the emotional aspect of being kicked in the balls – along with the paralysing pain there always comes a contemplation of vulnerability and pointlessness as your self esteem is instantly wiped out. Its very hard to keep taking emotional hits like that and stay optimistic.

    On a different note, I took a trip to some local ruins today (Kilwining Abbey) to take in a bit human histroy and found noticable amounts of rubbish in the grounds, graffiti on the signs etc. and the only sense I can make from that is that people are growing up with a fundamental lack of respect. How do you teach that to people? Is it even possible? Virtue always comed from within. My feelings and choices come from me, and a bit of example from those around me, but definitely not from what I was taught in school. Could it actually be that a good chunk of the human race really is hopeless? Look at politics and the motivations behind some of the things that are going on in the world – so much greed nomatter what the cost. Probably best not to go to deep into that here but I have 5 words which I think sum things up nicey: “Good People Don’t Seek Power”

    P.S. The only thing worse than the papyrus font is the one with the ‘masonic’ letter A which everyone uses (dont know the name of it).

    • Part of the problem is that the media tends to emphasize the very worst things in order to get attention and views. They rely on our attraction to disaster. Good news simply isn’t news, and so we often forget it exists.

      And yet I think more good things than bad happen. We just take them for granted. A smile, a kind gesture, a compliment–we overlook these as daily occurrences. Yet let someone give us a dirty look or say something unkind in a single moment, and they stick with us for much longer. So we end up with a biased viewpoint.

      As a counselor, I have a strong humanistic psych background. I am especially fond of Carl Rogers’ concept of “unconditional positive regard”–the idea that everyone has the capability to make changes for the better, and the ability for me to approach them as a guide in that task without judgement. Some of the clients I’ve worked with have done some pretty crappy things, and have had some even worse things done to them, but I prefer to focus on the fact that they’re in treatment, that they’re with me in session, and that in those things they’re trying to fight addiction and make a better life for themselves. The fact that there are more addicts out there who aren’t trying these things doesn’t dampen the fact for me that these women are. I can’t help the ones out there (yet, anyway), but I can help the ones in here. And that’s what keeps me going.

  2. Hi, Lupa.
    Don’t know what inspired your post, but if you think you were “escaping” into the wild last weekend, you weren’t. You were being a shaman to a group of people who’s experiences of shamanism/neoshamanism varied all over the psychic landscape, from total novices to advanced practitioners. A difficult combination to satisfy.

    Thank you so much for your hard work. The workshop was fun and informative and the ritual you designed helped me reconnect with Gaia and The Sun, the source of life.

    I hope you enjoyed the weekend as much as I did.

  3. Reblogged this on The Infinite Battle and commented:
    This has been one of my long standing problems. I have a lot of pessimistic “let the world burn” friends. A lot of people who have, often, verbally expressed giving up on helping the world and others. This very much bothers me. I don’t know why it is, but despite all the abuse and hardships I’ve faced in my 1/4 of a century in life, I remain rather, well, not misanthropic. I have my days, surely, but unlike others, who often just “want to give up” on the world, I often take “unhappy” parts of what I observe and prefer to try and change it. I don’t know why “fixing” is my prime desire, rather than to hide. This is something I’d like to see more from those who do “leave.” And yes, sometimes, for our health, we need to disengage, lower stress levels, take breaks, but that’s part of the “job” so to speak.

    In a lot of ways, I consider myself a loner, a “lone wolf” (and this I mean in the more literal sense, not the romantic sense). That I don’t often feel like I have anyone to trust or to stand by. However, I realize that I think I travel between communities. That’s sort of who I am. It’s not so much that I have a large pack (I have one; it’s small, but it’s close-knit and still young, but I still cherish it), but that my small pack–we stand together, but we also travel widely, alone. I don’t know about the others in what they do, but I enjoy standing with many communities, forming connections with them all, instead of one small one. I know this is a by-product of my upbringing (I could never make friends with anyone as a kid, but I could make temporary alliances with nearly everyone–I was a loner, but I took my time through all the cliques to help; I think this is why to my more pessimistic friends that I seem so patient; I care more about community than being well-liked or integrated in). I’m a traveller, rather than a community-builder, and so my loner status works for what I do, even if I have a small pack, it tends to be one in which everyone is majorly self-reliant. So I hope that others who wish to “leave” communities return, even if its not to belong as a member, but to help.

  4. Hi, I read your blog for some time but never comment but something bothered on this post,”children being abused and then in turn abusing animals and later on other humans (including their own children)” hmm, sorry but this quote is kind of offensive, most abusive people weren’t abused and most abuse survivors never abuse anyone so I have no idea why you felt the need to make that connection in your post, it’s just that there is already a lot of stigma on being a survivor and this doesn’t help, abuse by itself is horrible enough to be on a list of fucked up things wrong with the world, using a victim-blaming stereotype wasn’t needed. We all agree abuse is terrible and that abusing people is wrong, that’s enough.

    • I am sorry you feel that way; it wasn’t my intent. If anything, I was trying to illustrate that abusers very often were abused themselves, that they aren’t just “evil people”. I work with many abuse victims in my day job as an addictions counselor; I’m well aware of the fact that not all of them have been abusers in turn.

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